Now that we’re five months into our “official” wait, we’ve settled into the reality that those fantastic stories of super-quick adoptions – the “we just got our home study approval three days ago, we matched with an expectant parent yesterday, and we’re bringing home our child in a week” kind – well, that didn’t happen to us. Our agency gives us the estimate of an average of 18 months for the “official” wait, and since that’s an average of the many, many families they’ve worked with over the past 30-ish years, it helps us feel a little less anxious to know that those super-exciting and insta-family situations, while they do happen, and it’s great that they do – they’re not so much the actual norm.
Just like lots of folks who decide to adopt, we were super hopeful that we would be the exception to that average wait time. Weird as it may sound, we longed to be one of those families that would come together so quickly we’d find ourselves frantically buying baby stuff at midnight on the way to the hospital. Our experience has been different, though, and that’s okay too. We’ll be no less happy when it does happen.
I’ve read the sage advice of others who wished they’d had more time to prepare, and while I can appreciate the intention, I also snort in the general direction of such a thought. Obviously, all things weighed in the balance, I’d prefer that frantic midnight rush for supplies to the anxiety and uncertainty of whether I’ll ever become a parent through adoption though we have had a perfectly prepared room for months.
Still, we haven’t disregarded this helpful guidance. We’ve actually followed it. Something about the preparation process, the getting-everything-ready-for-baby projects – nesting, seems to be the most used way of putting it – is like aloe on sunburned skin. It makes the wait – the weight of the wait, if you will, easier to bear, somehow.
I’d heard of “nesting” before, but the image that always springs to mind is from the movie Juno, in which there’s a scene where hopeful adoptive mom Vanessa is in the room she and her husband Mark have decided to use as their new child’s room. Vanessa shows him several swatches of paint; Mark looks skeptical, saying “You could just wait a couple months. It’s not like the baby’s going to storm in here any second and demand dessert-colored walls.” Vanessa replies, “What to Expect says that readying the baby’s room is an important process…It’s called ‘nesting.’” Mark’s classic reply (classic perhaps in my mind only) is: “Nesting, huh? Are you planning to build the crib out of twigs and saliva?”
Mark’s not 100% on board with the idea of being a dad, and that attitude certainly flavors his perspective a great deal. I’m not trying to start some sort of pre-adoptive dad competition or anything, but I’m probably as far at the Mark’s end of the dad spectrum as a dad-wannabe can get. I have looked forward to dad-hood for a long, long time, well before my wife, *A*, decided the time was nigh. Having concrete projects to do, even if for an as-yet imaginary, but closer than ever before, someone makes me a little easier to live with (I hope…for *A*’s sake).
We’ve heard from and read that a lot of people don’t go in for the preparation – or, if they do, it’s to only a small extent. There are a variety of reasons for this – that having everything ready or having a continual project on which to work – it’s just a painful reminder of the wait. Maybe a negative vibe from a failed match or previous situation that makes other people more cautious or selective about advance preparation. Maybe it’s superstition or religious beliefs. All these approaches are perfectly understandable. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that there’s no one way to go about enduring the wait.
After many months of intermittent nesting, there’s a room in our house that we call “the baby’s room.” It’s across the hallway from our bedroom, and we usually keep the door closed, partially so that we keep two nosey cats out, but also because the person for whom we prepared it isn’t there yet, and we don’t know when he or she will be. Some people might think that’s really sad. Sad, to have a whole room in your house that’s closed off, unused, waiting for something to happen. For us, some days, yes, it does feel that way. Those are the days that we just go into the room and sit in the rocking chair my parents gave us – the rocking chair that will one day rock our child to sleep. These are the moments that encourage me to believe with intent – with the courage of my convictions, as Julia Child (and *A*) might have put it, that we are doing so much more here than playing make-believe. Sometimes just being in that room and looking that all the things that we have done in preparation of parenthood offers the realness that I need at that moment.
Though *A* has been just as involved in feathering our nest as I have, she will be the first to say that she doesn’t have quite the need for it that I do. In fact, she has commented to me that sometimes it’s just funny to step back and watch me go. In the past year, my version of building things out of twigs and spit has been characterized by periods of intense activity – must paint furniture! Must buy clothes! Must make blankets! Must paint walls! Must make artwork for the walls! Must obsessively research car seats, cloth diapering, and parenting techniques! Must organize purchases in drawers and closet! Must buy kids’ books! Must organize books by type, size, then by author! All of these projects are interspersed with days where the door to the baby’s room stays closed, flurry of activity over for the moment.
The room is ready now, dessert-colored walls and all. The big projects have been checked off the to-do list, one by one. Now, I’m not saying I’m ready to keep the baby’s room door shut until that best-day-ever arrives, because we still need to feel the realness of our hopes of parenthood, and besides, I’ve pretty consistently always have some kind of project going on, even little ones. That’s just who I am. Still, how many sewn-by-dad bibs, blankets, and drool bandanas does a kid need, after all?
Additional drool bandanas aside, everything is ready. We are too. Ready and willing.
Just add baby.
About the author:
Ethan is the co-writer (with his wife, *A*), of their personal open adoption blog, The Littlest Brooks-Livingston, which chronicles the occasionally trying, sometimes humorous, and always introspective dips and curves in the road to bringing home their first child through open adoption. Ethan, a recovering English major who has since moved on to another (more employable) area of the Liberal Arts, resides in Western North Carolina.